House Approves Bill Allowing Puerto Ricans to Choose Statehood Status

The House of Representatives voted Thursday to let Puerto Ricans decide the island territory’s governing status — over the objections of most Republicans who said Congress should be focused on other priorities in the final days of the legislative session.

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The legislation, which passed 233-191 with 16 Republicans voting in favor, frames the terms of a plebiscite on one of three options that would alter Puerto Rico’s status — full statehood, independence, or sovereignty in free association with the US.

The latter designation would put Puerto Rico on the same footing as the Marshall Islands, Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia. 

Bronx and Queens Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has Puerto Rican ancestry, presided over the vote and announced the final tally.

The bill is likely to fall short of approval in the 50-50 Senate, which left many Republicans questioning why Democrats rushed to hold an apparently quixotic vote when Congress is scrambling to avert a partial government shutdown by midnight Friday.

“I do have to say, with only a few legislative days left in this Congress, no path forward in the Senate, I’m not sure why this matter warrants an emergency meeting of the Rules Committee when so many outstanding issues remain,” Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) told Fox News Wednesday. 

House lawmakers approved a short-term spending bill late Wednesday that would give Congress another week to negotiate a federal spending plan for the rest of the fiscal year. 

The Senate was expected to take up that measure later Thursday.

“It is crucial to me that any proposal in Congress to decolonize Puerto Rico be informed and led by Puerto Ricans,” said Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, which oversees affairs of US territories.

“For far too long, the people of Puerto Rico have been excluded from the full promise of American democracy and self-determination that our nation has always championed,” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who has worked on the issue throughout his career.

Puerto Rico, with a population of more than 3.2 million, has been a US territory since 1898.

Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Pierluisi, of the pro-statehood New Progressive Party, traveled to Washington for the vote. “It’s going to be a historic day because it’s going to create a precedent that we hadn’t had until now,” he said.

 Puerto Rico has held seven non-binding referendums on its political status, with no overwhelming majority emerging. The last referendum was held in November 2020, with 53% of votes for statehood and 47% against, with only a little more than half of registered voters participating.

Pablo José Hernández Rivera, an attorney in Puerto Rico, said approval of the bill by the House would be “inconsequential” like the approval of previous bills in 1998 and 2010.

“We Puerto Ricans are tired of the fact that the New Progressive Party has spent 28 years in Washington spending resources on sterile and undemocratic status projects,” he said.

Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González, the island’s non-voting member in the House, praised the bill and said it would provide the island with the self-determination it deserves.

Click here to read the full article in the NY Post

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